#1 14-03-31 23:14

Parkaboy73
Banned

1nvoke: Archiving an Alternate Reality Game

A few months after Speculation ended, I noticed the player-generated wiki went offline at speculat1on-wiki.us.to. If I remember correctly, most of the information can be found in the Bureau Bot's archive at http://speculat1on.net/WE/viewtopic.php?id=202. But I found it interesting to see the differences between the players' archive and what I assume is the producers’ version. Still, both of those archives are missing something.

One of the reasons I wanted to build Nexus X with the Archivists was to provide a different kind of collection that attempts to capture the experience of Speculation along with its content. We know that’s a tall order, given how many comparable archives fall short. It didn't seem useful, for example, to make a big database of all the information we uncovered together (like on the wiki), because those encyclopedias aren't accessible or inviting to new players. They also don't articulate the experience of Speculation's narrative or gameplay particularly well.

Whenever I try and tell the story of Speculation to someone who hasn't played it, I end up sounding like a crazy person! So what's the best way to archive an alternate reality game? Is there a difference between an archive and the re-presentation of the game here? Even if Nexus X is more like a miniature, third run of Speculation, I think it captures some of the things about the original that wikis and subreddit threads couldn't. What is the "core" part of the Speculation experience? Can an archive even capture such a game or do you always "have to be there"? Who owns these histories and what do we do with them?

Last edited by Parkaboy73 (14-04-01 17:28)

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#2 14-04-03 18:16

gasmoney
Member

Re: 1nvoke: Archiving an Alternate Reality Game

I've thought a lot about this, and I think I spent a lot of time in the last round of the game desperately trying to archive information, puzzles, and fragments. As the game grew, I struggled to organize my posts. They became long and convoluted, and certain game-experiences were really, really hard to document. For example, I was never able to play through any of the text-adventure games--they were hard to document and a written transcript was never sufficient for me to make it through the puzzle.

I bet Speculat1on could be turned into a hypertext art book. The hypertext equivalent of a shiny table-sized art book. Digital presentation of the work would allow for interactive or video demos of game play as well as provide space for the many layers of player-generated and designer-generated content. Or maybe that's all just fancy talk for this third generation you've already initiated...

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#3 14-04-03 19:20

Parkaboy73
Banned

Re: 1nvoke: Archiving an Alternate Reality Game

I can definitely relate to your impulse to archive everything--especially as a form of play throughout an ARG! In the first round of Speculation, Hoof's archive (which was eventually copied by the Bureau Bots) seemed like a kind of checklist to me. There was a definite pattern and one way to play was to check things off of the list. When you have 8 hubs containing 8 minigames, 8 documents, and 8 passwords, it makes for a crazy kind of matrix (and also reveals holes.)

It reminds me a bit of Perec's Life A Users Manual. Each chapter of that book correlates to a room within a 10 x 10 apartment building. Each room correlates to a column of a database that Perec authored in advance to generate stories. The database had columns for things like literary genre, geographical location, number of pages, etc. and, as a reader, it seemed like I only got a sense of the totality by drawing it out, filling in gaps, and noticing holes.

Of course the book is about the relationship between a puzzle maker and a puzzle solver but it also has a killer section, right in the middle, where each room is described in exactly 60 characters using a monospaced font (an ASCII artist's dream, a translator's nightmare). This chapter is conceptualized as an inventory for a grand painting--a painting that represents everything in the book. I sometimes wonder if this kind of painting (or some massive ASCII) would be possible for Speculation? Also, it's apt that we're discussing Perec as I reveal my first puzzle piece:

E

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#4 14-04-03 20:47

gasmoney
Member

Re: 1nvoke: Archiving an Alternate Reality Game

ASCII seems like it's already present all over the place. It would certainly convey how much information is involved in a game like this.

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#5 14-04-04 09:19

JustInCayce
Member

Re: 1nvoke: Archiving an Alternate Reality Game

Nice, it's back. Good to see you, gasmoney. I wonder if we'll see people from Speculation v2, which I played: Semaphore, McAlec, quadrivium, llist, who else.

E? Guessing that's not the drug. Looks like the game is on. :)

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#6 14-04-04 09:54

wvixivw
Member

Re: 1nvoke: Archiving an Alternate Reality Game

From my very limited understanding of the world and the things in it, I guess I see two approaches to an archive that--I believe--are mutually exclusive. I'm not scholar of history, so take these words with a grain of salt.

As I see it, the first attempts to record everything. Its goal is truth through facts and comprehensiveness. Let's imagine this as a giant list of every film made in the 1950s. If one were to invest the time and watch all the films, they may see patterns, common influences, repeated references, and subtle connections.

The other attempts to record a curated subset of a thing for an intended audience. It's goal is to provide a digestible version of the thing it archives that conveys basic knowledge and a subjective interpretation. This would be the feeling/essence of the thing being archived. Instead of a list of every film, it may exist as a 5 minute video in which the author chooses clips of the some of the movies, reviews, and interviews and then arranges them in a way to highlight the key themes and trends from that larger list.

An example of the first: http://www.imsdb.com/writer.php?w=Wes+Anderson. An example of the second: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f56Ta6umxTI.

So what about Speculation? I see these message boards as the first kind of archive. A giant spreadsheet of data that you can read in its completeness if you want an unfiltered, unbiased look into the project. However, who has the time to read a million words these days? If we are attempting to create a digestible archive, I believe we should take that spreadsheet and turn it into a graph. The best data visualizations clearly tell a story with the data, highlighting the most important points.

I leave with these questions: What are the key elements and themes of Speculation? If we were to create a 'summary' of Speculation, what would we include?

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#7 14-04-04 10:33

Parkaboy73
Banned

Re: 1nvoke: Archiving an Alternate Reality Game

Ha, I forgot how much Anderson's films actually remind me of that central image organizing Life a User's Manual!

Great final question though, wvixivw--and one that articulates a problematic that troubles me. Like Borges' story of a map drawn at the scale of the entire territory, it seems impossible to ever fully consume an archive of that exactitude. Deleuze and Guatarri once wrote "The multiple must be made, not by always adding a higher dimension, but rather in the simplest of ways, by dint of sobriety, with the number of dimensions one already has available—always n-1 (the only way the one belongs to the multiple: always subtracted). Subtract the unique from the multiplicity to be constituted; write at n - I dimensions. A system of this kind could be called a rhizome." So another way to ask your question is what should be subtracted to summarize Speculation?

N

Last edited by Parkaboy73 (14-04-04 10:43)

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#8 14-04-04 11:40

wvixivw
Member

Re: 1nvoke: Archiving an Alternate Reality Game

Parkaboy73 wrote:

So another way to ask your question is what should be subtracted to summarize Speculation?

Words.

As we all know, the amount of text in Speculation is central to its core aesthetic and play style, but I think we can convey that without making people read a lot of them. This refers more to delivery than content, so I'm afraid I haven't helped much in condensing the essence of Speculation.

I'm reminded of a talk I saw a few years ago about visual game design documents. Game design docs (GDDs) are internal documents used in game development to outline mechanics, narrative, and other game elements. They are usually very long, full of words, and very boring. At one company, according to the presenters, about 8 people accessed the GDD after it was drafted. No one wanted to read it. So, in favor of words, they chose to create drawings for all of the central mechanics and art directives. They were quick to make (the artist would draw them on his iPad during his morning commute based off a quick email by the project lead) and conveyed everything (if not more) than words would have. More importantly, people loved reading them. Here are the first two blog posts showing some of the GDD pages:

http://www.slickentertainment.com/shell … g-post-01/
http://www.slickentertainment.com/shell … g-post-02/

And one of the images

NOTB_designdoc04.jpg

I'm not trying to say we should do the same thing, but I want to emphasize that reading takes a long time, which can lead to boredom and skimming, which results in an incomplete interpretation.

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#9 14-04-04 13:30

Parkaboy73
Banned

Re: 1nvoke: Archiving an Alternate Reality Game

Yeah, wvixivw, so much text! Of course, some of the precursors to ARGs are purely textual: short stories and novels like G.K. Chesterton's “The Tremendous Adventures of Major Brown” and Thomas Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49. An ARG-like novel I often think about is William Gibson's Pattern Recognition. In the book, the artist creating the mysterious "Footage" that obsesses a community has a T-shaped fragment lodged in her brain from a mine explosion:

TANTORPatternRecognition500.jpg

Sometimes I feel like I have text on the brain, but the idea of a visual GDD or something that at least organizes Speculation into some sort of table or timeline seems like it would make a big difference. I wonder what new players think of the whole thing.

T

Last edited by Parkaboy73 (14-04-05 12:12)

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#10 14-04-05 20:29

tinkertailor
Moderator

Re: 1nvoke: Archiving an Alternate Reality Game

so i was working on NEX's passwords and look what i found in speculat1on's root folder right next to http://speculat1on.net/POST.png and http://speculat1on.net/POSTED.png (which i added for parka):

PLAN.png

PLANS.png

must be from some earlier plan for the gmae? talk about timelines. click for ful res

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#11 14-04-06 11:41

Parkaboy73
Banned

Re: 1nvoke: Archiving an Alternate Reality Game

Wow, look what you found that was lost, tink!! This is totally amazing. But should it stay lost, not found? Is this root a Pandora's Box that should stay unknown? It's a bit discomfiting, don't you think?

What do you all think about this? What is it? What should I do with it?

E

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#12 14-04-06 15:04

Re: 1nvoke: Archiving an Alternate Reality Game

Sometimes you get a whiff of paranoia and, without warning, you develop an appetite for delving deeper. I'm certainly not going to dissuade you from digging around the root folder, tinker. But I will say that sometimes it's better to remain hungry than to sink your teeth into the forbidden fruit. Knowledge is risky, not just when you're discovering it, but maybe most of all when you're actively creating it.

Whatever, mock me for my food metaphor if you must. But the box metaphor was already taken (thanks, Parkaboy). Still, the patterns and discrepancies in these schematics are very telling if you're willing to look closely and spell it all out.

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#13 14-04-07 08:13

Parkaboy73
Banned

Re: 1nvoke: Archiving an Alternate Reality Game

I can't believe I'm actually agreeing with you, NDD.

Maybe this schematic is a Box (with no way out) or maybe a Rabbit Hole (that leads to a nest and offers still-unknown exit strategies). Or maybe we're talking about a Rabbit Warren (with interconnected tunnels that lead up, down, and in every other direction).

NEX was Reynard the Fox or Robin Hood. But now we only have the residue of its world. We have criss-crossing strings and stored away puppets without the puppet master. What do we do in that vacuum?

R_

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#14 14-04-08 15:45

jikuusaber
Member

Re: 1nvoke: Archiving an Alternate Reality Game

It's odd to me that everyone seems to have such a strong desire for the archive, here. What if, instead of trying to build a text that "contains" Speculation, we instead assume that it is inextricably bound to the time of its playing?

ARGs are transmedial events, occurring across and embedded within various spaces. They leave traces of their passing, like this forum or the subreddit. However, they are also fleeting instances of relations between players and designers, formed through the process of play. What if, instead of trying to recover Speculation to a central location, we assume that its contingency is part of its form?

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#15 14-04-08 16:14

JustInCayce
Member

Re: 1nvoke: Archiving an Alternate Reality Game

Definitely, jikuusaber. That seems right to me re: ARGs as transmedial + bound to their playing.

But does that mean that an archive is a bad idea? Couldn't an archive still be useful to a designer who's trying to learn about ARGs? The game design doc idea that wvixivw brings up would definitely miss the point as far as the experience of an ARG goes. But couldn't that kind of doc teach you something about the building blocks that make this experience possible?

Hmm, maybe it all depends on what we mean by "archive" (which might just be the wrong word). Maybe it's not just about what happened but what players experienced. You know, experience is a collective thing in an ARG. And that's harder to track or know. Maybe you can't archive it. But it might be interesting to make some sense of that kind of group experience.

Another question: Can we call this discussion an "archive" or is that just mixing up terms too much?

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#16 14-04-08 17:21

jikuusaber
Member

Re: 1nvoke: Archiving an Alternate Reality Game

Right, I'm certainly not saying that somebody creating or curating an "archive" is necessarily a bad idea! Instead, rather, we should be open to the idea that such an act necessarily privileges certain aspects of the game - an archive is never neutral or transparent, but structures our relationship to the objects it contains. Simultaneously, we should be aware of the terms of our desire for such an archive. As Derrida points out in Archive Fever*, the archive reiterates and curates public memory, but in doing so suppresses or buries others. Here's a cool quote from him about the desire for archiving:

"It is to have a compulsive, repetitive, and nostalgic desire for the archive, an irrepressible desire to return to the origin, a homesickness, a nostalgia for return to the most archaic place of absolute commencement."

Turning away from slippery poststructuralism, though, the humanities write large have a ton of methodologies to deal with this sort of ambiguous and contingent sorts of events. I'm imagining a conversation about ARGs with my adviser from undergrad - I imagine that after I had explained my archival woes to him he'd look at me as if I were an idiot, and ask whether I had done any fieldwork. I'd argue that we might approach ARGs - which we might understand as a "hybrid" form - with a similarly hybrid approach.

RE: this thread and forum as an archive. I'd say that we should not argue over whether there is a stable and knowable definition of archive - that would be a thorny problem - but whether this forum could function archivally. In other words, could these retellings and memories be incorporated into a network of relations understood as an archive? I'd say of course, but I also could have no idea what I'm talking about.

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